You’ve invested time and resources making certain your marketing emails contain rich, compelling content that are a joy for your subscribers to read. How effective will those carefully crafted emails will be, if they never even reach your audience’s inbox? How can you ensure your email is even getting through to your subscribers? To answer these questions, let’s examine some of the best practices that can help optimize modern email deliverability.
Acconding to Return Path’s Deliverability Benchmark Report 2016 22% of permission-based emails are snared by spam filters or go missing entirely.
“Mailbox providers are getting ever more skilled at identifying which messages you want, and which you will not miss if they don’t arrive in your inbox” says Andrew Bonar, email deliverability expert.
We first need to understand what’s the path an email needs to travel from senders to recipient’s main inbox and what are de obstacles (filters) it needs to go through:
Once your email departs from your email provider platform, the first filter it encounters is the gateway. A gateway is basically a node that connects two networks. One of the main roles of the internet gateway is that of a security sentinel, in the form of a proxy server or firewall. If the server and IP from where you are sending an email campaign happens to be blacklisted, chances are that your campaign will never pass through the gateway filter. Now, if your emails comply with a number of security aspects and manage to pass through the gateway stage, the next obstacle they face on their voyage are the SPAM filters.
A SPAM filter is basically a program that detects unsolicited or dubious email content reaching an email address. When a filter flags an email as SPAM, it lands on the SPAM Folder.
Some of the most important factors that trigger SPAM filters are:
- Metadata – SPAM filters will determine if the email is being sent directly to an email address or a recipient’s name, thus checking if the entity sending the email is on the recipient’s contact list.
- IP address – Filters can flag emails if the IP address from which the email was sent has been identified before with sending spam.
- Content– Some spam filters will tag emails if their content and images do not respect certain format.
For your emails to surpass these two “security guards” (and not land in the spam folder anyway when reaching your recipients), a series of best practices to follow would be:
- Having a solid email contact list where your recipients have double opted-in to receive emails.
- Sending emails with custom authentication, as to avoid being perceived as SPAM.
- Sending emails from a trustworthy domain address, letting your recipients and SPAM filters know you are who you say you are.
- Avoid unclear or suspicious subject lines: your subject line is how you introduce your communication to your audience. If your subject line makes your email look like spammy, then filters will make you land on the SPAM folder.
- Cautious use of URL shorteners, since they are a notorious way to hide the nature of URLs.
- Making it easy to unsubscribe: while an unsubscribe link must be included in every email campaign, it should also be easy to find.
- Avoid sending emails to unengaged recipients: lack of engagement is big issue in the delivery of emails and to campaigns being blocked.
Engage Subscribers and Build Trust
Because engagement data is an important and increasingly sophisticated measure of deliverability at many ISPs, whether or not users are opening and clicking through your email is vital. If emails from the same sender continually sit unopened in a user’s primary inbox, they eventually get funneled to the spam folder. And even if they are opened, email providers are employing smarter spam filters to weed out mail that recipients are not engaging via click throughs.
While content quality is still very important to engagement, so is delivering on a set of clear expectations. Make sure you are creating timely messages on a consistent basis to help drive engagement.
Build Your Email Lists Responsibly
Avoiding spam traps and staying off IP address blacklists means taking great care when building subscribers lists. Spam traps, essentially dummy deliverable email addresses created by ISPs to nab spammers, damage deliverability and your reputation.
Even if you aren’t a spammer (and you aren’t!), you could find yourself blacklisted if your list includes spam trap addresses you didn’t even know were there. Build your list with care, verify new email addresses, and scrub it frequently to avoid these pitfalls.
Content Still Matters
To keep people from ignoring your emails or marking them as spam, creating engaging content is as important as ever. Ensure your content is relevant and focused, and that it delivers value and a rich experience to subscribers every time. Modern email delivery demands actionable content that reaches the right audience at the right time.